Blog and opinion
8 February 2019 • Dave van Ginhoven
Apparently, there’s a strike coming up and in an unusual twist for a pretty opinionated guy, I don’t really know how to feel about it.
It’s been in the media and here on H|Nieuws, but it’s not something I’ve actually heard anyone talk about at work and it seemed kind of distant from my reality, so I did some research and it looked like it basically boils down to demanding more money for teachers. I like money, so that sounded good. But it also got me thinking.
Why is it that whenever we talk about improving education or making our profession more attractive, we only talk about money? Surely that’s not the only issue. How many of us got into this for the money anyway?
Don’t get me wrong. I like paying off my mortgage as much as the next guy, but when I started teaching, I never had any fantasies about ever asking Bono for tax advice. At the end of the day, I get paid to talk to enthusiastic young people about stuff that I think is interesting and though I’m never going to have to worry about having Rutger Bregman name and shame me in a viral video, I think I get paid pretty well.
The strike is also about work pressure and that’s a problem that cannot be denied. But here’s the thing: I don’t personally feel pressure from my actual job. If anything, I relax whenever I enter a classroom. For me, the pressure comes from the complicated policies and procedures I have to endure in order to carry on with core business. I’m sure more money would take the edge off of that, and more staff would help to divide that burden, but wouldn’t it also be just as easy to bin some of that ‘Brazilian’ bureaucracy?
It’s true that education requires investment and I’m grateful that we have unions that have fought for that, while getting us a living wage and benefits, so I lean towards sympathizing with the strike. But there’s one other thing that stays with me. It’s that I’m married to a primary school teacher, and If sharing a life and a bank account with her for 16 years has taught me anything, it’s that I’ve got no right complaining about my job when I get home.
Primary and secondary school teachers make a lot less money than we do and they face frustrations that we don’t deal with – the parents alone would give me a heart attack – and when it comes to results, the pressure is on them. They don’t get to send underperforming pupils away with an NBSA and they don’t get to remind slackers that “studying is a choice” to get them to take more responsibility.
My troubles seem small in comparison, so I don’t know what I’ll do on 15 March, but I recognise those teachers’ right to strike. I hope they get what they want and I think it will be good for us if they do. After all, their end product is our raw material and if they’re able to do their work better, I bet our jobs will get easier without us having to spend a dime. I’d call that a win-win scenario.
But that’s just one guy talking.
Dave van Ginhoven is a senior lecturer at European Studies, which he’s happy to promote to anyone who will listen. Before that he used to be a journalist and a Canadian. He loves to talk, but don’t take him too seriously. He’s only one guy.